Fact-checking the fact checkers: Politifact rated Obama’s ‘Lie of the Year’ as true in 2008

Fact-checking the fact checkers: Politifact rated Obama’s ‘Lie of the Year’ as true in 2008

Pants on FireA couple days ago, the Around the Web section of LU carried a link to a Wall Street Journal article asking whether Snapchat — an app that erases messages, photos, and captions seconds after they are received — was the wave of the future. “Do we want an ‘erasable Internet’?” the headline asked. The so-called “fact-checking” website PolitiFact would probably answer in the affirmative.

PolitiFact made headlines itself on Dec. 12 when it declared that Barack Obama’s now-infamous “If you like your plan, you can keep your plan” claim was the Lie of the Year for 2013. The article was accompanied by the site’s signature “Truth-O-Meter” in flames.

The only problem with PolitiFact’s rating now is that it is the diametric opposite of its own rating of the same claim five years ago, when it really might have mattered. An article at Forbes notes that on October 9, 2008, Angie Drobnic Holan — the same PolitiFact “analyst” who gave the oft-repeated promise a “Pants on Fire” designation earlier this month — wrote:

Obama is accurately describing his health care plan here. He advocates a program that seeks to build on the current system, rather than dismantling it and starting over.

Obama’s plan essentially takes today’s system and seeks to expand it to the uninsured. It creates national pools for individuals to buy their own cheaper insurance. It increases eligibility for the poor and children to enroll in initiatives like Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program. And it has several strategies to rein in costs for everyone, such as streamlining medical record-keeping and emphasizing preventive care.

Obama has said he would like his plan to be universal, in that everyone has health care coverage. But currently it includes a mandate only for children. Obama has said that he did not include a mandate for adults so as not to penalize people with modest incomes.

Feel free to wade through Holan’s disquisition and decide which of the falsehoods she perpetuates to be the most egregious. Is it the part about Obamacare’s reining in costs for everyone? The then-proposed system including a mandate only for children so as not to penalize adults with modest incomes? That it would make insurance cheaper?

You might want to visit other PolitiFact Lies of the Year, which also relate to the Affordable Care Act. In December 2009, the site declared the Lie of the Year to be Sarah Palin’s assertion that law would lead to government “death panels” that dictated which types of patients would receive treatment. The bitter truth of Palin’s observation is already a grim reality awaiting senior citizens come the New Year. In 2010, PolitiFact’s Lie of the Year was the contention among opponents that Obamacare represented a “government takeover of healthcare.” PolitiFact’s argument — that this was not the case, since all health care and insurance would remain in the hands of private companies — is still arguably partly true, so give the website a rating of Half True for its own misidentified Lie of the Year.

The problem with PolitiFact, which boasts of having been awarded a Pulitzer Prize, is that many voters from all sides of the ideological spectrum tend to regard “fact-checking” sites as gospel. Despite its effort to set the record straight now, the damage PolitiFact did in 2008 is irreparable.

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Howard Portnoy

Howard Portnoy

Howard Portnoy has written for The Blaze, HotAir, NewsBusters, Weasel Zippers, Conservative Firing Line, RedCounty, and New York’s Daily News. He has one published novel, Hot Rain, (G. P. Putnam’s Sons), and has been a guest on Radio Vice Online with Jim Vicevich, The Alana Burke Show, Smart Life with Dr. Gina, and The George Espenlaub Show.


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